The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Persuasion’

Loose Lips

March 5, 2012 | by

It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.

—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

I spent a recent Sunday morning at the baby shower of a friend made in adulthood. The other attendees all went back to Catholic school, so after the obligatory oohing and aahing over the onesies, conversation turned to Jessie, the surprising no-show of the high school crowd. “She must be hungover again,” said one girl with a knowing shrug.

“Yeah,” another chimed in. “Scott must’ve been on the late shift again, if you know what I mean.”

Snickering all around. “Ugh, Scott,” one said with a theatrical shiver. “That guy is such a loser, my God. If Jessie doesn’t move on soon—”

“Jessie will never move on,” another girl emphatically interrupted. “She finds his gigantic forty-year-old beer belly and pathological fear of commitment totally entrancing, and really who wouldn’t?”

What followed was another ten minutes on the subject of the absent Jessie, who, at thirty-three, all agreed, was definitely way too old to keep answering the midnight booty calls of the ne’er-do-well weeknight bartender at the Harp. Finally, the hostess noticed me nibbling quietly on my teacakes in the corner. “Oh, God, I am so sorry!” she cried. “I forgot that you don’t know Jessie! This must be so boring to you—we will change the subject.” A pause. “So, um, what else should we talk about?” She gazed down at her belly doubtfully.

In the thudding silence that followed, I was allowed to insist that Jessie’s sleazy sexual predilections and Scott’s ironic collection of too-tight NASCAR T-shirts were infinitely more interesting than bump-circumference guessing games or the extortionate price of strollers these days. Several hours past the official end of the party, I left in the glow of new friendships made: it was truly the most fun I’d had in weeks.

Because that’s the thing: gossip is fun, one of the most profound and satisfying pleasures we humans are given. Read More »

25 COMMENTS

Literary Dinners; Crumbling Apartments

January 6, 2012 | by

I’ve been dreaming of hosting a cozy winter dinner party based on a famous meal from literature. What famous feasts are the most completely described? Id like to be able to re-create the menu, the atmosphere, and the attire, if possible.

There are probably a few people in the world more interested in this question than I—but, I’d reckon, a very few. As long as we’re being frank here, you may as well know that I belong to a literary potluck society in which we do monthly themed dinners. (We have yet to venture into the realm of costume.)

Laurie Colwin once wrote a whole essay on books containing good food; she singled out the early novels of Iris Murdoch, the Barbara Pym canon, and Anna Karenina. Inasmuch as I own and have used the Barbara Pym Cookbook, I can’t really agree that any of these vivid descriptions would make for very satisfying dinner parties (or, in the case of czarist Russia, a very relaxing one for the cook).

Here are a few other ideas to get you started: The Master and Margarita (for more manageable Russian cuisine—and think of the costume opportunities!). If you fancy something Dickensian, see any of the gluttonous Joe’s numerous meals in The Pickwick Papers. If you really want to take the guesswork out of it, Heartburn comes complete with recipes. Proust is a no-brainer—if Proust can ever be called a no-brainer. If your interest runs to tea, root out Enid Blyton. And at the end of the day, does any book in the world have better food than Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy?

If you don’t feel like going the fictional route, there is always the food memoir. Nowadays, you’re spoiled for choice. Or (ration-bound Pym aside) consider the subgenre of cookbooks authored by enthusiastic writers: two whose quality is rivaled by their own idiosyncrasies are Roald Dahl's Cookbook and The Tasha Tudor Cookbook.

Whatever you decide, please drop a line and let me know—the group and I are always looking for ideas.

What do you think about movie adaptations of books? Are there any instances where you think the film actually improved on a particular story, or do you find that adaptations for the most part dont do justice to the original text?

Of course there are terrific adaptations. The Godfather, after all, made a thriller into a baroque masterpiece. We could list successful adaptations all day—I hope you will, in comments—but just a few that I like: The 39 Steps, The Dead, Persuasion, The Remains of the Day, High Fidelity, The Leopard, and, most recently, the new Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which manages to cover a lot of ground with enviable economy.

I recently moved into a crumbling three-bedroom in Bushwick, with peeling hand-painted green wallpaper in the cramped and poorly lit stairwell. The front door’s peephole, the tin cover of which unmoors itself at night and clatters to the ground, overlooks a dismal and gloomy green landing, where I can easily envision a seedy groping or muffled strangling taking place. My own room is separated from the living room by an old-fashioned sliding parlor door about the size and weight of a Prius. The bathroom window opens into a murky blue chute, which smells like laundry and cigarettes and exhales a strange warmth. What books should I read here?

Reading’s the easy part—sounds like your pad is made for it. What you should watch, and posthaste, is Roman Polanski’s The Tenant.

On the other hand, maybe you shouldn’t.

Read More »

22 COMMENTS

Jane’s Lace

December 20, 2011 | by

One of the difficulties of adapting Persuasion, Jane Austen’s sixth and final finished novel, for film is that so much of its drama is internal: encoded in an indirect glance, in the brush of hand against skin, the muffled thump of a heart. Passion, passed through the sieve of eighteenth-century English propriety, is visible only diffusely in the text, as coloring in the landscape or in the minutiae of gesture. The novel quietly condemns the social conventions that demand this: Austen is archly dismissive of the Regency woman’s “art of pleasing,” her “usual stock of accomplishments,” and her frivolous feminine occupations, like “cutting up silk and gold paper.”

When Anne and Frederick, Persuasion’s lovers, do finally reach one another, it’s through a remarkable letter written literally into and onto a separate conversation—an almost postmodern moment of intertextuality—that explodes such conventions:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever … I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature!

As the scholar Robert Morrison argues in a beautiful new annotated edition of Persuasion from Harvard’s Belknap Press, it’s the most romantic moment in Austen’s work. But, romantic or not, Austen’s form of kabuki can frustrate a modern preference for fervor.  Read More »

NO COMMENTS